Online exhibitionism was the topic of the fifth story in our America Unzipped series, so we asked readers whether they thought the practice was harmless fun or a twisted use of technology.
Twisted? More like "perverted," said one reader. "People need to get a grip and stick to the privacy of their own bedrooms."
"Simply gross," said another.
But others weren't appalled at all.
"Doesn't interest me, but whatever two (or 20) consenting adults wish to do or show to others is no one's business but their own," said one reader.
Others wrote in to defend their own exhibitionist practices. "Online exhibitionism allows us shy and reserved people to live out a fantasy that we cannot in real life," one reader said.
Read on for more responses:
I personally don't feel the desire to exhibit myself. However, it is a healthy outlet for those who do. It allows the participants to act out fantasies that are unacceptable in nearly any other forum. It is also safer in terms of avoiding disease and even unwanted physical contact
Jerry, Orlando, Fla.
I am a member in Red Clouds. I love this site because it satisfies both my voyeuristic and exhibitionist tendencies. I have met some great people here also. Most people think that only freaky perverts go to these sites, but it's not true. Though I have met some people that I wish I hadn't, 95 percent of the people I have met are great. I will be a member of this site for a long time. I truly believe it is harmless fun.
Juan, Rockford, Ill.
If you are in a relationship that is supposed to be "committed" and you are naked in front of someone else, that's cheating. If you wouldn't do it in front of an actual person, much less your partner, you shouldn't do it in secret either.
Nate, Arlington, Va.
For an individual such as myself, online exhibitionism is an easy way to explore the otherwise socially unacceptable topic of sexual fantasy, depending on the type of friends you keep, of course. I'm a 27-year-old guy [who] has always felt rather unattractive and entirely unable to express his sexuality in its entirety. The risk of alienating yourself from your friends and family is all but eliminated and you're free to explore whatever it is that tickles your fancy. I started sharing nude photos of myself online early in college and I've recently graduated to camming. The excitement has yet to fade; I still get the feeling that I'm taking a dangerous leap every time I fire up the cam, that I'm risking ultimate exposure and the discovery of my secret. I might go as far to say that there's even a part of me that wants to be discovered. I guess when you boil it down, I enjoy it because it allows me throw it all out there for the world to see, to take part in something that simultaneously excites and scares me.
Anonymous, Cincinnati, Ohio
It is perverted and a misuse of technology. I worry mostly about the children finding these places ... people need to get a grip and stick to the privacy of their own bedrooms — WITHOUT CAMERAS!
I have participated in online exhibitionism with people unknown to me and also with people I have been intimate with outside of the virtual world. As long as its between consenting adults I believe there isn't anything wrong with it. I have also found that if you are involved in a long-distance relationship it helps keep the relationship intimate and makes it easier to handle the distance between two partners.
I love it! It's perfectly harmless and it allows you to connect with others who may share a similar interest. Through several amateur sites, my wife and I are able to meet other people who share our passion for feet and nylons. While you may not understand that fetish, there are others who do and the Internet makes that connection possible. When someone tells me that pictures of my wife excite them, how can that be a bad thing? It's a compliment.
Daryl, Columbia, S.C.
I never knew such a thing exist until I read it here. Now millions of married men out there are going to [go] to these sites and ruin their marriages.
It's real-time porn with a selected audience. Everything is the same except the medium used for delivery. I don't see a problem with it.
Doesn't interest me, but whatever two (or 20) consenting adults wish to do or show to others is no one's business but their own.
John, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Harmless fun that will eventually cause sex to be so mainstream, people will actually start paying attention to real-world issues.
I think it's fine as long as you aren't hurting anyone ... or sneaking around on a spouse or lover, such as Don is. That really isn't fair to his wife. If they were both doing it and it worked for them that way then fine ... It should be fun for everyone and not a hidden secret ... especially from people we're supposed to care about. I hope she finds out. Don sounds like a dirty old man. The other two were going about it the right way ... they weren't hurting anyone.
In theory, I see nothing wrong with it as long as it is kept between consenting adults. But I have a close online friend (who very well could be Don using a pseudonym) whom I know is very addicted to this lifestyle. I believe his compulsion affects his ability to have a normal life, fulfilling relationships and even friendships. Despite the anonymity afforded on the Web, the secretive nature of these sexual practices causes people to become devious and dishonest even with those not involved in their predilections. Though he would like me to be, I've never been an "audience" for [my online friend]. I met him on a Web site unrelated to his hobby, and he's never pushed me. But I worry that he will never find true happiness for himself, and feel sometimes that he objectifies himself and exploits himself when he has so much more to offer than just body parts. He's an amazing person with an incredible mind, and it hurts me to think this is all there is for him.
I think this is a VERY healthy and natural release and expression ... the only thing "wrong" with it is that many people have to lie and hide this beautiful side of themselves to the degree that living in an outwardly puritan society "demands."
Robert, Asheville, N.C.
I find this use of our awesome technology simply gross. Don stating that "there is this secret side to me that must be satisfied" is simply lack of self-control. Our culture has taken a turn for the worse and the belief that all desires must be fulfilled and not shamed is to blame. Susan describing herself a "church-goer" but acting on the desire to have skin-on-skin contact with numerous partners is an embarrassment to the rest of us who PRACTICE our religion, and part of that is treating our bodies with the respect they were created for. We are not animals and when we start putting so much thought and energy into filling our desires we take away time and energy that could be used for other good. How hurt and disgusted would Don's wife and kids be if they found out this was what he was doing on business trips? At the cost of your children's respect, Don, do you HAVE to fulfill these desires? They will find out, people always get caught.
Sarah, Lynden, Wash.
Being a regular Voyeurweb contributor myself, I happen to think that it's harmless adult fun for couples (my husband and I do) or singles. It's also a great way to meet friends that are little more open-minded than most people and aren't afraid to show or tell you what they think.
I think that, for the most part, it's harmless fun. The downside is that it can become an addiction. Not such a bad thing for a single person, but for a married person with kids the addiction can ruin a family. When you would rather sit in front of a computer monitor than interact with your spouse and children, that's a problem.
Tony, Prescott, Ariz.
It seems like a fairly safe way to experience what many would find offensive. In the privacy of your own home you should be able to do what you please. Personally I want to focus all of my sexual energy on my wife, so I've lost touch with porn and the Net. I used to be somewhat addicted and admit it still beckons me. (Hence why this article jumped at me.) If my wife (of three months) would ever like to surf with me I could get back into it quickly. But only if we do it together.
I think that online exhibitionism allows us shy and reserved people to live out a fantasy that we cannot in real life. It is also very safe for us married people that still want to be faithful. You get the excitement and something different and still afterwards get to make love to your wife without guilt.
Barry, Memphis, Tenn.
Love the thought, though I would never have what it take to do it.
Thomas, Plains, Pa.